49ers review: Specialists


49ers review: Specialists

This is the fifth installment of a nine-part series that reviews every 49ers player and position group.There's no need to look outside the Bay Area for the best group of specialists in the NFL. The kickers, punters and long-snappers of the 49ers and Raiders earned trips to the Pro Bowl. The 49ers opened the regular season with two returns for touchdown from Ted Ginn in the final minutes to help them get the Jim Harbaugh era off to a good start against the Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers then got NFL-record performances from kicker David Akers, as well as punter Andy Lee and the coverage unit. However, the season ended on a sour note with two costly turnovers in the return game. Grade: A-
David Akers -- The 49ers' offense stalled too many times, giving Akers ample chances to kick field goals instead of extra points. Akers made an NFL record 44 field goals on the season, including 7 of 9 from 50 yards or longer. His percentage of made kicks was in the middle of the pack in the NFL, but in a season in which the 49ers won six games by 7 points or fewer, Akers was big. He made all four FG attempts in the playoffs, too. His kickoffs were outstanding, as the 49ers were third-best in the league with an opponents' average starting point of the 20.6-yard line.Andy Lee -- He set the team record with a 50.9 gross average, and Lee broke the NFL record with a 44.0 net average. Lee regularly had distance, height and accuracy on his punts. By angling most of his punts toward the sideline, he gave the coverage unit a better opportunity to avoid big returns. The longest return against the 49ers all season went for 24 yards. In the two playoff games, Lee had seven punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line and just one touchback. His net average was a 41.5 yards in the postseason.
Brian Jennings -- The 12-year veteran earned his second trip to the Pro Bowl, as Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy added him to the NFC roster as a "need player." It was another season of near-perfection for Jennings while handling all the long-snapping duties on punts and kicks.Ted Ginn -- It was an interesting start to the season, as Ginn accepted a pay cut of approximately 1.2 million to remain with the 49ers after the final cuts. The 49ers should've given him back the money when he returned a kickoff and punt for touchdowns within a 59-second span late in the fourth quarter to enable the 49ers to pull away against the Seahawks. Ginn ranked third in the NFL with a kick-return average of 27.6. He was fourth with a punt-return average of 12.3. Ginn was also sure-handed, as he was not responsible for any turnovers in the return game.Kyle Williams -- During the regular season, he returned just two punts -- both against the Seahawks late in the season for 41 yards. He also handled four fair catches. Pressed into service in the NFC Championship Game against the New York Giants, however, his miscues accounted for two key turnovers. Those plays led to 10 points, including the game-winning field goal in overtime against the Giants. Williams' decision-making was not good. He unnecessarily made a diving catch of one punt. And then he failed to get away from a bouncing ball in the fourth quarter that glanced off his knee and was recovered by the Giants. On the fumble that led to the Giants' winning points in OT, he made the catch but failed to secure the ball in traffic and fumbled.

Shanahan: Beathard's play will have 'a ton' of influence on future decisions


Shanahan: Beathard's play will have 'a ton' of influence on future decisions

SANTA CLARA – While rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard is taking a micro view of his promotion, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is not shy about admitting he is looking at the big picture.

Shanahan said how Beathard performs after replacing Brian Hoyer as starting quarterback will have “a ton” of influence on how the 49ers proceed during the offseason.

After all, the 49ers know every position will come under tremendous scrutiny as the organization looks to add the pieces that will make the club competitive.

“That’s for every position. That’s for every player on our team. That’s for every coach on our team,” Shanahan said. “We’re 0-6, and that’s extremely tough. But I’m extremely excited about this place and excited about where we’re at and where we’re going. There’s not a moment that I don’t waste thinking about that stuff.”

Beathard will make his first NFL start on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium.

Hoyer failed in his bid to earn consideration as the 49ers’ quarterback for the remainder of this season and beyond during his six starts. Hoyer completed just 58 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and four interceptions. His passer rating was 74.1.

Now, Beathard gets his chance. But he said he is not thinking about the big picture and what it might mean for the future.

“I’m really just trying to take it one day, one week at a time,” Beathard said. “I’m not looking that far ahead. Right now, my focus is on today’s practice and geared towards beating the Cowboys and doing the best we can to get better and improve.”

Beathard was pressed into action last week when Hoyer’s struggles continued at Washngton. Beathard stepped in and completed 19 of 36 passes for 245 yards with a touchdown and an interception. For the first time, Beathard is getting the first-team practice snaps with a game plan that is designed specifically for him.

Said Beathard, “Getting those extra reps, reps with guys that you don’t usually throw to, in the huddle with the guys that are out there, I think it’ll help a lot.”

Joe Montana: Dwight Clark appreciates all the support from former teammates


Joe Montana: Dwight Clark appreciates all the support from former teammates

More than 35 players from the 49ers’ first Super Bowl champion will be in attendance on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium to show support for Dwight Clark, who revealed in March he was diagnosed with ALS.

Clark, 60, will have ample opportunity to reconnect with some of his old friends on Saturday evening and again on Sunday. At halftime, Joe Montana, surrounded by most of the 49ers' 1981 team, will introduce Clark before a video tribute.

Clark is also expected to make some remarks while situated in a suite for the 49ers’ game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Montana and his wife, Jennifer, have remained in close contact with Clark and his wife, Kelly. The Clarks recently watched the Blue Angels in San Francisco with the Montanas during Fleet Week.

“He’s getting pretty inundated with everyone staying in touch with him at this point,” Montana said on The 49ers Insider Podcast.

“It’s fun for him. At one point, he was telling his wife, Kelly, ‘This is what it’s all about. This is what I want and what I miss, seeing the guys.’ So any of the guys reaching out to him, he surely appreciates it.”

Montana said Clark has not lost his positive outlook or his sense of humor, as evidenced by some not-fit-for-print words he recently had about his wheelchair. Montana said there are always some good laughs and stories any time Clark gets together with his friends.

“That’s the fun part," Montana said. “You just try to get him to forget what’s there, and that you’re there for him whenever. I think the support is the biggest thing right now. In that stage of ALS, it's got to be getting tough, where all of a sudden, things are becoming more and more difficult.”